SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean made an emotional return on Thursday to the venue of their gold medal-winning performance at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, a high point for the city before it was torn apart by war.
Britain’s most celebrated winter Olympians pledged their support for the construction of a new ice rink in the city to replace those destroyed by bombs during a 43-month siege between 1992 and 1995 in which more than 10,000 people died.
Torvill, 56, and Dean, 55, were due to re-enact their iconic ice dance to Ravel’s Bolero, which drew an unprecedented perfect row of 6.0 scores, later on Thursday.
“We are so honored and humbled to be invited back to Sarajevo to celebrate our 30th year since the Olympics and to be able to come back to the place where our lives changed,” Dean told a news conference.
“More than anything we hope it will launch a campaign to get the ice rink built for the development of new skaters and for the success of their 27th Winter Olympic Youth festival (in Sarajevo),” he added.
The visit is part of a number of events to mark three decades since the Sarajevo Winter Olympics, fondly remembered by Sarajevans as a moment of high hope before war tore apart federal Yugoslavia in the 1990s, killing 100,000 people in Bosnia.
The Zetra hall, where the British pair won gold, was razed in the bombardment of the city. Most of the Olympic venues have been reduced to rubble either by conflict or neglect over the past 30 years.
The Zetra hall was rebuilt in 1999, but Sarajevo remains without a year-round ice rink.
The skaters’ return finds Sarajevo in fresh upheaval, with protesters taking to the streets daily to vent anger at the unemployment, corruption and political paralysis that has blighted Bosnia’s recovery from the war.
“Thirty years ago, after we won the Olympic gold medal, we never imagined what would happen to us, you don’t realize a certain day in your life can impact the rest of your life, and that day changed our lives forever,” Dean said.
Choking back tears, he spoke of meeting again the woman who as a six-year-old girl collected the flowers on the rink and gave them to the two Britons after their 1984 performance.
“To personally hear her story from the six-year-old girl who was picking up the flowers and the subsequent life afterwards and today being here ...” Dean said, his voice breaking.
That generation, he said, “has gone through some difficult, tragic times.”
“And yet now they are so hopeful and join us here today - that really brought it home for us today.”
“Thirty years on, we are still here and we are still doing Bolero. It’s been an amazing ride,” Dean said.
“It was only after (the Olympics) that we realized that (Bolero) was so identifiable, people actually wanted to see it more and more, we haven’t counted how many times we’ve done it but they are in the thousands,” he added.
The flower girl from 1984, Elma Krasny, said she was overjoyed to see Torvill and Dean again.
“I watched them dancing Bolero this morning and my heart stopped,” Krasny told Reuters. “They are masters of the ice. This city needs something as positive and beautiful as this event is.”
Editing by Ed Osmond